Ed Note: This is the fifth and penultimate post in Laurie Oakley’s Pharmaceutical Rape series.
Pharmaceutical violence is a social injustice that can intersect with every other type of oppression and form of discrimination. Dehumanizing in its own right, pharmaceutical rape (and the cultural/medical denial of it) compounds the distress already experienced by persons in socially marginalized groups as well as in individuals who are dependent, frail, or otherwise in their most vulnerable states. Many (but not all) who experience other forms of institutionalized oppression turn to healthcare systems where they are too often subject to retraumatization and further stigmatization.
Industry decision makers and those who collude with them deflect attention from the systemic practices that lead to pharmaceutical rape by pointing to the life-enhancing and lifesaving potential of treatments that have been developed to benefit millions. It is true that nearly all of us have benefited from the innovations of modern medicine. It is also true that a failure of adequate warning, as well as system-wide refusal to acknowledge common adverse outcomes, has led to destructive, life-altering consequences for millions. Those who are injured have become a hidden class, a forgotten and often persecuted minority. Given that so many had been seeking relief from the effects of other oppression and marginalization, this constitutes nothing less than a reprehensible humanitarian disaster. Meanwhile, the medically privileged do not have to think about the ways the systems that benefit them deliver life-altering outcomes to others, and this willful oblivion is the basis upon which all social injustice thrives. While this type of injury can happen to anyone, it is not always recognized when medication is making one sick.
Internalization occurs when people who experience adverse events believe in the misdiagnoses of their symptoms and end up embracing additional labels and further treatment for their medication side-effects. Those who have internalized pharmaceutical oppression alter their attitudes, behaviors, speech, and self-concept to reflect an acceptance of a pharmaceutically-induced and medically-maintained sick role. The internalization of this manufactured reality can create low self-esteem, self-doubt, and even self-loathing as the individual continues to experience perpetual and worsening illness despite one’s commitment and efforts to become well. (Especially true with diagnoses of a stigmatizing nature, e.g. psychiatric labels). Internalization of pharmaceutical oppression can also be projected outward as fear, criticism, and distrust of survivors and others who speak out and/or challenge the systems in which they receive care.
Peter Gøtzsche, co-founder of the Nordic Cochrane Collaboration in Denmark, the world’s foremost body in assessing medical evidence, has estimated that adverse-effects of medications that are used as prescribed are the third leading cause of death in the United States and Canada after heart disease and cancer. Known cases are believed to account for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.
Serious harm seems to be 10 to 20 fold more common than lethal harm. An estimated 700,000 events are reported per year, less than one third of the estimated actual occurrences. While drug side effects are said to be a leading cause of death, disability and illness, it is estimated that only 1 – 10 percent of adverse events are ever reported.
The FDA’s post-marketing surveillance system is underused, underfunded and in serious disarray. While MedWatch is said to be an important tool for monitoring the effects of medications after limited studies and quick FDA approval, doctors are not trained to utilize this as an important aspect of their work. Only 1 to 10 percent of adverse-effects are ever reported. Reasons doctors cite for not reporting include uncertainty as to whether the drug caused the symptoms, not wanting to look foolish for reporting, and a feeling that they are already too busy. Because the missing information does not get shared and acted upon within the medical system, patients end up reporting to one another “underground” via internet message boards and other forums set up to support patients who cannot find help within medical and mental healthcare systems.
When an individual reports a life-altering outcome, very rarely is there any kind of investigation. Pharmaceutical injuries that are not denied as such are simply regarded as flukes or mistakes. There has been no effort made for a serious and thorough investigation into the systems-wide problems that enable and encourage widespread pharmaceutical harms. No governmental task force or entity has taken responsibility for uncovering the full extent of the problem, advocated for the passing of legislation, or for any other changes to address these ongoing harms. Instead, pharmaceutical companies are occasionally found guilty of various errors, are made to pay fines, and then go on to rape again and again.
Justice is rare to non-existent for victims of pharmaceutical violence. Legal actions to date have done little to significantly alter the industry-government-medical behavior that is so devastating to individual patients and their families. The structured practices that systemically deliver harms remain in place while drug companies pay occasional fines and continue to earn billions.
Currently there is nothing in place for the prevention of widespread pharmaceutical harms. Despite the appearance of drug industry cooperation, efforts for prevention via full transparency in the sharing of clinical trial data have been met with resistance by pharmaceutical companies. For this and other reasons, the process of informed consent in the medical setting fails. Alternatives to drugs, devices, and medical procedures are not lucrative options from a business standpoint and so doctors, by and large, have little incentive to focus on the safer alternatives they could be offering patients.
There are no systems in place for treating those who report harms. Treatment begins with listening and recognition. Medical systems in denial currently offer victims very little in the way of validation, let alone knowledgeable and compassionate care. Many of these manufactured illness require immediate medical intervention which is sadly non-existent in most places. Person-centered protocols for discontinuing psychiatric medications are urgently needed for patients who want and/or need to stop taking them. Many mainstream doctors remain unaware of the dependency potential of several medications they routinely prescribe.Share this:
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Well written, so absolutely (apallingly) TRUE. Those who end up in this system, treated with psych drugs when our initial problems were not psychological, is horrific. Even minor psych problems dealt with in such a heavy handed manner, and then once on the pills, all credibility is lost, we become the ultimate slaves to the pharma machine. Also the overtreatment with other medications, that do more harm than good, all for pharma greed and I call it pure corruption.
I wish everyone trying to escape this medicated pharma madness, good luck. Stay determined, stay strong.
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David Cameron on sky news today says he doesn’t want people suffering in silence. I’m sitting in pure utter misery and have been suffering now for how many years? and all because of the treatment? and still I’m being ignored. Does this include us that have been harmed? CAN YOU HEAR US MR CAMERON WE HAVE BEEN PHARMACEUTICALLY RAPED AND DESTROYED! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO HELP US!
Prime Minister David Cameron said many living with mental illness “have had to suffer in silence”.
“I chose the word rape to describe pharmaceutical harm because of the many parallels to sexual rape; the point is not to get hung up on a word, but to look at the phenomenon. I absolutely think it is every person’s right to choose their own words, and in this case “corruption” didn’t cut it for me.”
But *you* *have* got hung up on the word, and even wasted time and space arguing about *it*, in these very comment streams, where all the discussion *should* be about what can be done to put things right, and how to get the message before the people with power to change the system.
I have to admit that I found the first few instalments of the series unreadable, precisely because your exercise of your ‘right to choose your own words’ completely distracts from the important message that you are trying to propagate. You’ve forgotten that your audience also has a ‘right not to read any further if something looks wrong’: You can’t win them over, because they’ve gone. This is the most fundamental error any author can make: *Your* rights don’t matter: You must, swallow your pride; you must choose your hook and bait carefully, or you will catch nothing; you must target the widest audience possible, and choose your words *precisely* with the goal of keeping *everybody* reading, *to the end*.
I’m pleased to say, that I did, eventually, read the previous instalment to this one, and was very impressed, notwithstanding the jarring, and distracting, ‘rape’ metaphor. In fact, the piece is so well set out, that the distracting analogy ‘stream’, could be fairly straightforward to remove, without spoiling the primary message/information. Seriously: Weed out the unnecessary distraction, and you have a series worthy of publication in a mainstream journal. And that could be a very good thing for us all.
[Put in a few references, and I would not be surprised if Niall Boyce at Lancet Psychiatry, was interested in printing this view from the patient’s perspective–that they rarely get– Email: email@example.com ]
You write brilliantly, and you have tackled a very wide ranging subject, and shown a remarkable degree of understanding of what it is like to be in the position of victim, in all the scenarios you have uncovered. This really is brilliant: most people would have no idea of just how many situations can lead to a person being rendered powerless and discredited by the system, and disabled by its products–much less put it in writing!–, but you seem to know about them all; and I can’t imagine how you gained the knowledge and insight to put this all together.
I really am desperate to share this: what I think is a very important piece of writing, that *needs* to be widely disseminated and read.
BUT I CAN’T SHARE IT: AND THAT IS A TRAGEDY. 🙁
Laurie: I’m sorry, but you have tried to combine two separate campaigns into one piece, and, as a result, you have lost many readers in two audiences: Those who saw the word ‘rape’ and then discovered that the piece was about medical malpractice and business corruption, and; those who came to a site about psychiatric practice, and expected to find a scholarly piece, that gave creditable facts with a minimum of histrionic distractions. Both groups will have given up reading–there is an infinity of other material to read on the Web–and, many medical professionals in the latter group, will have dismissed you as ‘hysterical’. And, from your, insightful, writing: You, clearly, *know* they will have.
You’ve let your principles get in the way of your project, and forgotten who your audience is intended to be. As a result your remarkable effort is going to go to waste, or, at the very least, only going to be accepted by those of us who already know the truth of what you relate.
I do understand what it is like, when you think up a good powerful bit of rhetoric, and, eventually, realise that, it needs to be sacrificed in order to hang on to the readers (or please a particular editor, or not upset too many people), but you have to learn to pare things down to the bare essentials, to get your serious message across in the purest, and shortest, form that you can achieve.
Hope you will take this criticism in the spirit intended. I look forward to seeing more of your writing, and, good, referenced, evidence, that I can pass on to anyone I think is in a position to use it effectively.
Good referenced evidence that you can pass on to someone who will use it effectively sounds like a recipe for burial.
If we ask the question which would the pharmaceutical industry prefer – good referenced evidence or what Laurie has done? I can tell you they would much prefer good referenced evidence and they cannot abide what Laurie is doing here
Thank you for reading. I’m glad you felt you got something out of it.
Initially when I shared this idea, some people got hung up on my use of the word and quite forcefully attempted to silence me. This is why I began the series by spelling it all out for other survivors. I was already aware some of David’s readers see “rape” as a legit way of approaching this issue, and I just wanted to make sure they knew what kind of resistance they could run into if they decided to embrace the new term/framework.
Someone already stated that my first post seemed too broad, and I have taken that to heart. Again, my intention was to get the word stuff out of the way up front so that people would be aware. I agree with you that it is probably distracting. I’m not sure how you’ve seen my comments as arguing, though? I thought I was discussing parallels, which is the point.
As I’ve written elsewhere:
“I began with the definition, Pharmaceutical Rape Culture, and expanded it from there. Not because I wanted to shock people with the word rape, but because there were so many parallels. I have found that people who are offended by the language are not really aware of the actual damage being inflicted upon victims (including ongoing professional denial and retraumatization), nor do they understand the ways people are denied the right to give consent in a more fully informed manner. So the definition is meant to bring clarity, is especially for victims/survivors, so we may become emboldened, act collectively, and see some kind of justice.”
So I’m not sure this is really about winning people over. Either it resonates or it doesn’t. There will be those who turn the page, or walk away, just as they have been doing since we first began crying out, even with more “appropriate” language. I’m no stranger to being ignored, or being dismissed, nor do I mind getting under the skin of those who need to call a woman “hysterical.”
I’ve used the word “rape” in the doctor’s office twice now, coupled with the word “complicit.” You *should* have seen their faces. But since this tack is not for everyone, the next post will be about the constructive actions that you so rightly say should become our sole focus.
Laurie, – I hope that Steve’s comments have gone straight over your head as they are so unnecessary. From the way he puts it, I detect a little frustration that he’s not had the bottle to come out with the truths that you have brought into the open!
I’m sure that I speak for very many when I say that I have read every word that you’ve written and digested the lot. I won’t say that I’ve ‘enjoyed’ it all – surely that was not your intention in the first place. As for your choice of words – without which your writings, although still excellent, would not have held our notice in the same way – I read nothing but the truth as you see it and want it shared with us.
Keep up the good work – worry not about your critics; they can choose whether to read or not to read – it will be their loss if they choose the latter.
And it’s impossible to address some of the legacy effects of pharmaceutical assault on the victim which do have parallels with direct bodily assault without the use of the word Laurie has gone to great thought and pains to explain and to try to convey even to a disaffected reader.
Like to Ray Fuller of Eli Lilly perhaps.
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Pushing the boundaries is essential to doing what’s right for the patient. Read more: http://gsk.to/1mCXkaE
Disclosing information on payments to doctors has already had positive effects in Europe
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From June 2016, we will publicly disclose information on payments and transfers of value that we make to doctors and other healthcare professionals (HCPs) in Europe as part of an initiative by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).
Insights so far
pushing the boundaries..
sounds like a recipe for burial..
Are semantics side-lining the actual message here? My own reaction to this erudite and powerful series was a ‘read it and weep’ response. Little point in even mentioning the family members, friends and neighbours who have been destroyed over the years by doctors’ prescribing habits. It is all akin to manslaughter-by-edict. Despair continues!
The national Press is also in denial – or fearful for their jobs and therefore rigorously complicit. During a brief, and somewhat ludicrous, engagement with a mainstream journalist recently, her only (predictable) observation was ‘You cannot be certain that the drugs have caused the harm.’
Should not everyone reading this Pharmaceutical Rape series offer print-outs to their local GPs
(and MPs?) Surely SOME of them are on the verge of rethinking their position?
A groundswell of unified protest is needed, at the very least.
Mr. Hawkins charms with his enthusiasm for what Oakley wrote. The commenters here have lived and breathed and tossed the topic around inside our heads for so long that it’s ordinary to the point of self-evident. Enthusiasm for Pharmaceutical Rape – the term, the series, and the book – is based on its equating an everyday occurrence that is not just accepted, but lauded, with assault, battery, and bodily violation and the prospective ruin of human lives, right up to death. Some followers of this page have lost a great love, an infant, a child, or an adult, to pharmaceutical rape.
“Pharmaceutical Rape” is shocking. What today’s pop-up blogger (and reader of Oakley’s and her readers’ minds, critic of writing, and stylist of the polymerase chain reaction school) failed to glean from the effort he put into reading and writing, writing, writing, is that the words we use in our movement must be shocking to be fitting. It’s not been enough to say we were badly hurt. We are going to have to give a little hurt, if only to effete sensibilities, to be heeded.
Mr. Hawkins didn’t accuse Oakley of hyperbole; that is good. He did prescribe some actions she should undertake, seemingly because he knows more about many things than she does. She should omit the word “rape” because it is distracting. Distract,”rape” does, away from other things and to itself, which is why it’s a good and necessary word in this context. The problem of pharmaceutical rape has gone on for decades. Fine, intelligent people have been brought to their knees and find there is no recourse or recompense after what was done to them, because a trivial few lawyers and lawmakers give a damn. Hardly a journalist does, either, so on top of everything else, pharmaceutical rape is abetted by a species of gaslighting.
The beauty of “rape” is that it doesn’t just distract and shock, it excites, and excitation is a prelude to action. I think something will come of the stimulating effect of Laurie’s words. Hawkins’ mega-comment was charged with excitement. He might magnanimously put a word in some place where he Knows Someone. Had she written of side effects, conflicts of interest and perverse incentives, this would have been a dull morning, unless someone had happened by and launched a complaint againstwho disapproved of “perverse” outside the realm of sexuality.
Thank you, Mr. Hawkins, for making it shine.
“Accessible data from experiments on humans remains an aspiration, it’s not here yet”
Great article of interest to anyone interested in #alltrials #badscience https://twitter.com/coyneoftherealm/status/699597473505943553 …
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Dr Tom Jefferson, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, co-author of the study said:
Dr Peter Doshi, University of Maryland, co-author of the study said:
So scarily accurate too…
Came across this, which I thought may be fitting:
“Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims.
The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. People who have survived atrocities often tell their stories in a highly emotional, contradictory, and fragmented manner that undermines their credibility and thereby serves the twin imperatives of truth-telling and secrecy. When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom…”
― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery
The verbal narratives of victims of pharmaceutical rape and medical assault & battery are more likely to be viewed in a context similar to “Tales of Alien Abduction”. That is to say, the credibility of these trauma victims is not undermined by highly emotional, contradictory and fragmented story telling- ; their credibility is subject to a phenomenon that arises when one finds herself in the predicament of having to *suspend one’s grasp of reality* in order to believe what she is hearing.
Reality as the product of a majority, collective consciousness, is the ordering of experience into rational, safe –social comfort zones. Doctors are trustworthy. Science, as the foundation for medical practice, is completely reliable. Safeguards are in place to protect us from harms known only to experts in the fields of medicine and science. These three, interwoven, interdependent axioms are challenged each time a *patient* reports an adverse effect of treatment to a health care provider, who then has to consider which aspect of her *reality* is suspect. Her comfort zone depends on trusting systems and experts that are more like a life line, than a safety net. IF, she is to go on with her work day, confidently prescribing treatments for the diagnoses she confidently makes, for the people who have become her patients, she must stay firmly grounded in the reality, shared by her colleagues; that it is much more likely a problem with the patient than a flaw in this magnificent, well oiled system that she is tethered to via a proverbial umbilical cord.
Harm, damage– intentional or inadvertent are not compatible with what the collective consciousness calls, reality. The medical/health care/pharmaceutical industry that she both supports and depends on, can only be good, right and reliable. The opposite is unfathomable, painful, or an utterly ridiculous notion to entertain.
I agree with Judith Herman’s acknowledgement of prerequisites for healing- ; that victims of atrocities do need to have their stories validated in very concrete terms that fully describe and identify perpetrators as wrong-doers and victims as innocent seekers of relief. This is never an easy task–, but it is nearly impossible when the atrocities have rained down from health care professionals and the scientific community that backs them up.
There is always some shroud of secrecy protecting a perpetrator from exposure, something that seems an unlikely necessity for licensed physicians and highly esteemed scientists who develop and manufacture treatments, as they would be the least likely suspects of perpetrating atrocities. Yet, they do have a secret that serves as a shield ,- protecting them from full frontal public scrutiny and accountability. The secret is, that each of them individually can never stand alone, for none has full knowledge and understanding of the entire system that sustains their livelihoods. The secret is– they have to praise, cling to and protect one another so that each of their comfort zones remains rooted in the reality that each of us needs and wants — at the end of the day.
So– if there are multitudes of victims, from every demographic and every culture in developed and developing countries all over the globe, and– if the stories they tell are being collected and analyzed — and published, read, shared and embraced by critics of the systems along with many who are emboldened to continue to tell their own stories. How long before our beloved, brilliant health care providers take seriously the threat of — “alien abduction”??
Well put, Katie!
Very accurate and powerful article. At 13 I was put on antidepressants for chronic pain they claimed was from depression. I was told I was just depressed every young woman feels down sometimes. I carried that label and filled my body full of these pills until at 20, I just stopped. Turns out it was never depression and I wasn’t nuts. I’d been fighting an awfully obvious case of systemic lupus and endometriosis. So bad I have seizures caused by the sustained damage to my brain from years of untreated lupus. Not to mention the loss of my fertility. These drugs are poison and why we tell women you’re mentally ill not sick when they go to the doctor for help is a moral question and one that needs to be addressed.